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“Fighting human trafficking is not just about law enforcement” – UN rights expert

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons - Thursday 30 July 2015

GENEVA (28 July 2015) – Speaking ahead of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, United Nations human rights expert Maria Grazia Giammarinaro calls for sweeping changes in policy and on perception of trafficking. Fighting trafficking is not just about law enforcement, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children reminds governments across the world.

“After more than a decade of efforts aimed at combatting trafficking in persons, we have to recognize that results are still modest. The vast majority of trafficked persons -not less than 20 million people globally- are not recognized as such, and as a result do not have access to justice and remedies.

Trafficking means extreme exploitation -often in slavery-like conditions- of women, men and children who are socially vulnerable, mostly due to their being undocumented migrants. To tackle these gross human rights violations, a policy shift is needed, and the same perception of trafficking in persons should change.

So far, trafficking has been considered mostly a law enforcement issue. Today, we should look at trafficking as an economic and social issue, linked with global trends including migration. Therefore prevention is key.

To prevent trafficking in persons, national authorities should deal with a broader area of exploitation, in the sex industry, in agriculture, fishery, domestic work, garments, and the tourist industry.

Governments and the private sector must prevent and combat exploitation wherever and whenever it takes place, especially when migrant workers are involved, and tackle the driving factors of exploitation. Among them, one of the most powerful is the lack of regular channels for migration.

In that regard, policy coherence is essential: the fight against trafficking is incompatible with restrictive migration policies that place people in a situation of irregularity and vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking.

Furthermore, within mixed migration flows, an increasing number of people migrate to flee from conflict and crisis areas. Better international cooperation is needed to ensure that people entitled to international protection are offered a viable solution in one of their preferred countries.

However, in the current situation, asylum seekers and refugees are amongst the most vulnerable migrants, often exposed to the risk of trafficking, including children traveling alone, women and girls who are raped during the journey and exploited in prostitution at destination, men, women and children obliged to accept inhuman working conditions to survive.

This is the policy shift which is much needed today: to prevent trafficking and to protect trafficked persons’ rights, it is necessary to protect the rights of all migrants, and of all vulnerable people, be them foreigners or nationals.

Once someone is recognized as being subjected to exploitation and/or trafficking, she/he should have immediate access to legal counseling, healthcare, and tailored forms of assistance, in order to be able to claim their rights.

These opportunities should be given without any condition. No legal requirements should be established which actually denies exploited and trafficked persons their right to access justice and remedies.

Trafficking - as in the case of historical slavery - takes place because enormous economic interests lie behind exploitation of the global poor. However, this can be stopped, if people of good will - both powerful people and simple citizens - feel that trafficking is morally and socially unacceptable, and take action against exploitation, injustice, and human rights violations.”

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms, and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims. Ms. Giammarinaro has been a Judge since 1991 and currently serves as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome. She was the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the OSCE, and served in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security in Brussels, where she was responsible for combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. She drafted the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Trafficking/Pages/TraffickingIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Nathalie Stadelmann (+41 22 917 9104 / nstadelmann@ohchr.org) or write to srtrafficking@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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